Owner/Breeder Peter S. Willmott Dies at 86

Peter Willmott | courtesy TOBA


Funeral services were held Saturday for Peter Sherman Willmott, an owner and breeder of Thoroughbreds who served for nearly two decades as a trustee and chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) and as a steward of The Jockey Club.

Willmott was 86 and died at his home in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Nov. 11 while surrounded by family, according to his obituary in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Among the top horses that Willmott raced either in his own name, in partnerships, or as Willmott Stables, were Eddington, the winner of the 2005 GI Pimlico Special H., and Williamstown, the 1993 GII Withers S. victor who was named after the town Willmott so loved in the quiet Berkshires section of the Northeast.

Although Williamstown only won that one graded stakes in his 4-for-25 career, the colt blitzed a one-turn mile at Belmont Park in 1:32.79 when capturing the Withers on opening day of the 1993 Belmont spring season. That clocking pared two-fifths of a second off the (then timed in fifths) record of 1:33 set in 1982 by Conquistador Cielo. Williamstown's mark stood for 10 years until Najran ran 1:32.24 in 2003, which remains the current record.

“Pete's integrity, passion and commitment to the sport left an indelible legacy on TOBA and everyone associated with it,” TOBA's president, Dan Metzger, stated in a press release.

A graduate of Glens Falls High School in New York (1955), Williams College (1959), and Harvard Business School (1961), Willmott was an entrepreneur who began his business career in New York City at American Airlines and Booz, Allen & Hamilton.

According to his Sun-Times obituary, in 1966 he became vice president and treasurer of I.T.T. Continental Baking Company. He joined Federal Express in 1974, working in a number of executive roles and later serving as that firm's president, chief operating officer, and on the FedEx board of directors until 2009.

Willmott's lifelong resume includes numerous other business-related appointments, and he was generous with his time regarding volunteer and civic service roles.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Sanjiv Shah Laboratory by way of the Northwestern Memorial Foundation at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital. To read or add to Willmott's online memorial book, click here.

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